Moya C. Peterson

My name is Moya Peterson, MA, RN, ARNP, CPNP, FNP-BC. I have just completed my third year of doctoral studies at the University of Kansas School of Nursing. I have completed my comprehensive examinations and am now anxious to begin dissertation work.

The path that has brought me to this point is wandering at times but every part has added something to my experience and knowledge as a nurse and has allowed me to combine many aspects to be what and who I am today. I went to a small college in Illinois as an undergraduate. There one of my favorite experiences was working in a parent organized school program for mentally and physically handicapped young adults. It was there that I met a young adult with Down syndrome and he fascinated me. I worked with him one on one a great deal and he awakened in me a love for the people that have this syndrome and their families.

When I completed my BSN we moved to Kansas City, MO and I worked at a large children's hospital. There again I met a number of children with Down syndrome and their parents. I watched and cared for them as we repaired their hearts and I learned to love each one. While in KC, I met one of my best friends, a teen who attended my church. She also has Down syndrome. We have been friends now for almost 25 years and she has celebrated her 42nd birthday.

I left Kansas City to attend graduate school in Iowa City. I majored in child health nursing and also graduated from the PNP program there. My thesis was a case study about an eight year old girl with Trisomy 21. I spent many hours with her and her family for the thesis and for other clinical hours. She and I took a gymnastics class and had a wonderful time together. It was a grand learning experience for her and the 50 or so other children in her class. She was the only child with special needs. She went on to participate in Special Olympics as a gymnast. I also did considerable work with the clinical genetics staff at Iowa and again had the opportunity to see the impact of Trisomy 21 on a family.

In the next few years we moved a bit and I worked in long term care for many years in a nursing administrative position. I was still involved with the mentally and physically handicapped through church and community activities. We moved back to Kansas City and I accepted a position as a nurse practitioner at the University of Kansas Medical Center. I also accepted a faculty position at the School of Nursing. I completed the family nurse practitioner program as a post-masters student. I work as a FNP in the Family Medicine Clinic still today. I work with faculty, residents, medical students and nursing students. Through that clinic I also have had the opportunity to work as one of two primary care providers (both of which are NPs) at a community organization that provides housing and jobs to mentally and physically handicapped adults. I have been in that position for about five years.

When I decided to start school to work on a Ph.D. there were many reasons. One, we require our residents to complete a research study during their third year of their program. I hope to assist them in the designing and analyzing their research and contribute to the departmental goals in that way. I was aware that to do what I wanted to do in the classroom and in the research community I needed a terminal degree. I also wanted to be a role model for my students and children of lifelong learning. When I applied to graduate school a small essay was required on a subject of our choice and once again my thoughts turned to all the children and adults that I knew with Down syndrome. When I began thinking of a population that I wanted to work with for my dissertation I knew there was no doubt that I wanted to work with adults that had Down syndrome and their families. I had read about narrative medicine and oral history and I knew that somehow I wanted to be able to help them tell their stories because there was information there that we as health care providers needed to know. When I took qualitative research I had found my niche in research. I also have completed hours at Johns Hopkins University in the health policy department as my minor. This demonstrated to me the tremendous importance of health policy for the handicapped and their dependence on it.

Currently I am planning to do my dissertation in a somewhat unusual format. When it is completed I hope to have developed a DVD that interviews parents, siblings and the adult children with Down syndrome themselves to tell the story of the experience of being an adult with Down syndrome and the concerns of the family surrounding this issue. Statistics are indicating that the average life span of a person with Down syndrome is 55 years. This leads to new concerns for the unique health care needs and social/community needs of this adult population. I hope to share this research with families across the nation and health care providers as well.